Many African Americans do not know how to swim or have little swimming ability compared to their white counterparts, partly due to historic racial disparities. According to one study, the fatal drowning rate of African American children is three times higher than white children.
Sixty-four percent of African American children cannot swim or have little swimming ability in comparison to 45% of Hispanic children and 40% of Caucasian children who have no/low swimming ability. One woman is looking to defy those stereotypes with a program aimed to help Black people gain more confidence in the water.
Black People Will Swim was started by journalist Paulana Lamonier with the mission to dismantle stereotypes around Black people swimming. Its goal is to teach at least 2,020 African Americans how to swim by December 2020. Lamonier says her goal with the program came after she looked at the alarming number of Black children and adults who cannot swim and the rate of fatal drowning as a result.
“The number is nearly double. Through this program, we not only aim to teach Black people how to swim, but educate them on where these stereotypes of ‘Black people’s bones are too dense’ and disparities come from—for example, the Jim Crow Laws and slavery,” said Lamonier in an email statement to BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“However, what makes our program unique to any other program in the game is that we are also partnering with haircare companies to show our swimmers how to maintain their hair and what products work best as hair is one of the main reasons that discourages Black people from swimming.”